What is it about?

Professional football attracts a lot of attention from media, television viewers and supporters who visit stadiums on a regular basis. It is no exception that tens of thousands of people travel to a stadium to watch their favorite team play for two times 45 minutes. Since many matches can be watched on television as well it is surprising that so many football fans are willing to spend four to six hours of their life just to watch their team play and spend quite a lot of money too. After all, it is not just watching the game but also traveling to and from the stadium that is time consuming. And, it is not just the price of the ticket but also the travel costs that have to be covered. The phenomenon of massive interest in football stadium attendance goes back a long time. Fifty to sixty years ago the situation was not very different. Even in those days with substantially lower incomes, longer travel times as public transport was for many the only possible way to reach the stadium, uncomfortable seats in sometimes appalling weather conditions visiting a stadium was very popular. Looking back at the developments in stadium attendance over the past 50 to 60 years there is a remarkable dip in the 1980s, a phenomenon that the Netherlands shares with England, Germany, France, and Belgium. The current paper presents an analysis of long-term developments in professional football stadium attendance. Unemployment rates seem to have been important. In addition to this, there is a strong association between stadium attendance in the Netherlands and the top football leagues in other European countries in particular England. This suggests that stadium attendance is affected not only by national developments but also by common international trends in the interest in football matches.

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Why is it important?

Whereas there are quite a few studies using match-level data analyzing differences in match attendance between clubs, there are not many studies that have a long-term perspective on stadium attendance and thus are able to consider the common determinants of long-run developments.


The future of football stadium attendance is unclear. However, stadium visits bring immense joy to the ones who are allowed to watch their favorite team face to face. Viewing a match on television is no doubt more comfortable, time efficient and cheaper than visiting a stadium. Nevertheless, it is not a real substitute for the live event.

Jan van Ours
Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Common international trends in football stadium attendance, PLoS ONE, March 2021, PLOS,
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0247761.
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